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Feature: Birds of Prey
Ladies of the Knight
Batman has deserted Gotham City, and it has fallen to the Birds of Prey to keep the streets safe for decent, ordinary folk.
Welcome to New Gotham, a vast metropolis of skyscrapers and neon, its civilized veneer concealing an underbelly of crimelords and lunatics. For years, Batman has helped maintain the forces of law and order, but one fateful day the balance tips. In a frenzy fuelled by revenge, the Joker fatally stabs Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, and Batman’s lover, leaving their secret daughter Helena motherless. Before the dark evening is out, he shoots Barbara Gordon, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down, forcing her to abandon her crime-fighting role as Batgirl. Sickened by the tragedy, Batman hangs up his cowl and walks out of Gotham.
Seven years later, and Barbara Gordon (Dina Meyer) has picked up the pieces and acts as the legal guardian of Helena (Ashley Scott). The pair have turned their anger to good use; now in a wheelchair, Barbara has recreated herself as Oracle, and focused her mind on constructing a powerful computer system for monitoring the city. With it, she guides Helena in her role as the lithe, powerful Huntress: unmasked and unarmed – “I am the weapon!” – she strikes a powerful blow against the forces of Evil.
“She’s a genius,” says Meyer of Oracle. “She’s the backbone of the Birds of Prey, she runs everything, and she keeps everybody on track.
“She was Batgirl, and has this horrible disability, but she got stronger from it. Initially she was running in Batman’s shoes, and it took for to be confined to a wheelchair to find out who she really was. She could have thought, ‘To hell with it all, I don’t have legs, I’m done’. But she didn’t, she became the new and improved Barbara Gordon. I salute her, I think she’s fabulous, and I feel honoured to be playing her.”
“This girl went through a lot,” says Ashley Scott of her character, Helena. “She lost her mother, and there’s a lot of anger behind that. I have friends who have lost parents, and they are angry.”
It’s often been observed that television poorly represents ethnic minorities; it’s less frequently noticed that TV series, particularly those about heroes, almost never feature regular characters who are disabled. Kudos then for Birds of Prey, in which Barbara is not only a wheelchair user, but also an active part of the crimefighting team.
by David Richardson
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